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Not a BC - but agility and a shameless brag.

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My head is up my ass happens to me frequently.

Also I spent last summer learning how to walk and remember a course. My instructor trained me after realizing it was a skill I struggled with. Even that wasn't passed off as an 'accident'. I've forgotten one - ONE - since, and that one was 'too worried about one part of the course' combined with 'not enough sleep' AND 'head up my ass'.

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Yes, if I just accepted my dog's mistakes, there would be no incentive to improve handling, training, etc.


That would be true if everything that went wrong were a mistake on the part of the dog.


But that isn't true. Of course, there is always handler error, the need to continued training, etc.


I get the impression that you are taking what I am saying as an "all or nothing" kind of a thing, but that is not my point of view at all.


I see the sum total of errors that occur as a a mixed bag of: handler error, need for further training, need for fitness/conditioning work, random things that just happen (like glares), error on the part of the dog, handler limitation, handler talent, dog limitation, dog talent.


Yes, there are things I don't work on at times because they happen once.


Tessa knocked a bar on a jumpers run back at the beginning of April. I honestly have no idea why (that could have been me/could have been her - I have no clue and it doesn't really matter). I did absolutely nothing. I mean, we went on and completed the run, and rest of it was quite nice. But I didn't change anything about myself, I didn't do any particular training, I didn't change her fitness program. She hasn't knocked a bar since. She rarely knocks bars - I am not going to worry about it, or do anything different, unless it starts to happen more frequently. I chalk that up to "fluke".


Lately I have seen some deterioration on her weaves, so this summer I am going to build a set of PVC weaves and spend time practicing them and building back some value into them. I believe she just needs some maintenance work (something that nobody is at "fault" for since pretty much all behaviors need to be maintained), so this is something we are taking back to training.


Acknowledging that my dogs make mistakes at times (not every single time, but some of the time) does not lead me to the conclusion that I don't need to train or work to improve handling. I don't really see why it would . . .

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Apparently you have a much better understanding and memory of what you do and the impact it has on your dog than I do. I can figure out what I'm doing if I watch video, sometimes - if it's really overt, outside the moment. Sometimes I catch things on slow motion that show me, further, how I made that mistake happen. I trust my trainer on the rare time she tells me 'it was the dog' - which was once, and what started this - but my absolute understanding of what my dog does, what my handling is, where my shoulders, feet, and hands are pointed, where I am looking, what my TIMING is, all while going at 4+ Yards PER SECOND (and this is a small dog) just is not that good.

If I am going to decide something is wrong, it'd better be with me because going 'Dog flubbed' is maybe accurate, maybe not, and if it's *not* it needs trained (on my end, sometimes on the dogs), and if it is - well, training isn't going to hurt because the dog likes it.


I guess the reverse here is I see no benefit at all to assuming, ever, that it's dog error instead of handler error. ETA: Or, I guess more accurately, I see no benefit in assuming it was no's error instead of handler error.

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Blame = Responsibility, we've been over that part. Responsibility is less loaded, but it is still what I mean - and most mean - when they discuss it.


Actually, I don't agree with that.


Blame = assessing "fault". Blame is never good.


Responsibility = being accountable for something that is within your control.


Taking responsibility can be a good thing.


I realize that the two words can be used synonymously, but in this context, I would not say that I do.


When I send Tessa to a jump, she is responsible for responding to the cue, and getting the job done. I am not going to do it for her. There is no negative connotation there.


For me, when the dog starts to take on those kinds of responsibilities - that's when the game becomes the most fun. :)


That does not mean that if she runs off and takes a purple tunnel instead, I am going to assess "blame" on her, even if she did misread my handling.


And I don't believe that acknowledging that she misread the cue is equivalent to assessing "blame".


I honestly believe within the very core of myself that blame is useless. Especially when it comes to dogs!


But I will always be the first to honestly acknowledge reasons.



The purpose it serves is that it keeps me working to be better as a team without putting pressure on my dog. Because I'm the only one making decisions, issuing commands, and calling shots and determining what happens in training and what the dog learns. It means the dog can do no wrong and that builds her confidence *enormously* and keeps pressure entirely off.


OK. That makes sense to me.


Personally, I don't need to do that to avoid putting pressure on my dog. I can acknowledge that my dog is as fallible as I am and actually respect my dog more for it than I would if I thought my dog could "do no wrong". But different people do work better with different mental strategies and this absolutely makes sense.


And I can understand the idea of using "blame the handler" as a mental game for keeping pressure off the dog, and I can see that for some people that would be helpful.


It works best for me to keep pressure off of my dog by always remembering that he or she won't be with me forever, that every time we walk into the ring is a privilege no matter what happens, and that I accept my dog 100% no matter what.


These mental strategies do vary from person to person - and they need to because different ones work for different people.


If I were putting it too much on myself, I would actually mess my dog and I up. The idea that we both have 100% permission to be imperfect helps me to give my dogs the best in myself out there, and to appreciate the best of them.





Ditto me being a better handler. If I am willing to ever say 'eh, things happened the dog just did something wrong' then I am no longer looking for a reason, no longer looking to make that less likely through training. I'm just accepting that the thing went wrong, the dog made a mistake, and nothing I can do about it. Nothing to work on. Just a thing.


I would maintain that sometimes there are things that really are "just a thing". They happen once. They don't happen again.


I guess, for myself, I would rather assess each mistake (regardless of whether it originated with myself or my dog) within the context of the whole picture, and then decide if it is something that merits special training/work/changes.


Some things don't. Sometimes I made a random mistake that I know I am not likely to make again, so I disregard it. Sometimes my dog makes a random mistake that I know she is not likely to make again, so I disregard it.


A lot of things do - sometimes I do need to alter a habit, or I need to work on a piece of handling, or something needs to go back to training, etc. etc. - I focus on those things. Or, as many of them as I can!! Training in four sports at once makes that an interesting juggling act!! :)

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Apparently you have a much better understanding and memory of what you do and the impact it has on your dog than I do.


Nope - I have almost every trial run video'ed. If I don't have a video, I can only go by memory, and I do allow for the fact that I might not remember 100% correctly.


But I do video a ton. That is extremely helpful for figuring out exactly what went down.


Occasionally, I do register something that doesn't show up on the video, but it almost always works the other way around.


And I will often have my instructor look at videos for me, as well, to troubleshoot things.

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Amazing how much people differ. We video very little as for us it serves little purpose to pick over the bones of every run.


It's normally obvious what went wrong and we just move on and resolve not to do it again.


If a pattern develops we know how to fix it.


If we want to learn something new we go to a good trainer and we watch the best to see how they do it.


My approach to all training is to keep it as simple as possible. Seems to work for us.

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Molly went to agility practice with us tonight. She didn't do any agility, just came, hung out, and refrained from freaking out/losing her mind at other dogs/people/excitement. It was nice and I was proud.


Then I got Kylie out and I got the prettiest jumpers run I have ever seen, on a course I didn't get to walk and didn't know. Distance, speed, enthusiasm, close to a four obstacle lead out. I *wish* I'd gotten video of that one less for analysis than to admire myself. LOL. Jealousy does good things for that dog. So does me not giving a hoot about the outcome.

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Videoing seems to tempt fate for us as we only seem to catch the ones that go wrong. Not going to go to the bother of videoing every one just in case we strike gold though. I prefer to watch live rather than faff about with technology.

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I only 'get' video when my husband is along and feels like it. That means I have *some*, but not really a lot. Of those I have one run I am really, really, pleased with.


I do find it useful, but not to the degree that I will track down someone to video every or most things I do, especially since a lot of what I do, even in training, is in a quasi-crowded environment with people better than me who help. Once in a while someone asks me to video a training session, or I hit a problem and video but not often.


The primary purpose for me is actually showing my mother who lives far away and is interested :P It's the refrigerator artwork of my late 30s.

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My main purpose for getting video is not to nitpick myself, but to have that record to enjoy.

I am an avid video-sharer on FB. People all over the country, and some around the world, have gotten to watch Tessa go from a scared stray following peanut butter on a spoon all the way to her C-ATCH! I know that is not everyone's cup of tea, but I actually do have FB friends who enjoy following that sort of thing. Now they have watched Bandit grow up and will see him in his first competitions before long.


I also love to take my videos and make little "music videos" out of them, more for my own enjoyment than anything. Maybe it's the musical dog sport artist in me - I simply can't resist.


I love to go back to Maddie's old videos. I love to see her flopping around the courses and her tail thumping! And I watch Speedy's Freestyle videos from time to time. I enjoy watching those videos and remembering those good times with my original dogs. I think I actually video more now because I appreciate the videos of my original dogs so much.


And it's not just dogsports. I have tons of video of my dogs swimming, playing on the beach, running on trails, playing in my yard. I have just one video of Speedy eating the last bits on an apple. I have a video of Dean nose targeting a camera. I have videos of training and videos of them in everyday life.


One of my favorites was a video of Dean, Tessa, and Sammie barking along to "The Sound of Silence" by Simon and Garfunkel.


So, it's handy to be able to shoot a video to my instructor and say, "what the HECK happened HERE?" But more often I send her a video of a run because it was fun, or Tessa just did great, and I want to share it. And the response I get is, "she looks so happy, and that was really nice".


I just have a thing for taking pictures and videos and then making art out of them. I've been doing that since I was a kid and I made scrapbooks, albums, and collages out of my film photos. They can be useful for analysis, but I get video taken more just to enjoy the videos.

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I will also admit freely that I freaking love picking music to set to agility videos. LOVE.


I swear if freestyle were anywhere near me I'd be all over it. I don't like the Cyber-sports stuff much, I'm just not good of having the discipline to get it done, but I LOVE dogs and music.

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It's really a shame they don't do the big Freestyle festival down in Virginia anymore. I'm not sure if you would have been near it (it's moot since they don't do it anymore). That was an absolute blast!! It brought together freestylers from different venues, which is a feat unto itself!!


Maybe someday the sport will come your way!

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I think there is a club not too far away that does some, it's just a matter of timing. Maybe it'll work out, someday.

Meanwhile, I might also someday put together some little musical trick routine that's not really freestyle and delight myself. I poke at it once in a while and put things together, so I might eventually get the whole song's worth. Molly REALLY liked that song from go, and at this point positive associations there are rocking.

Confuses people, but hey.

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Sometimes at Agility trials they play music while everyone is walking the courses. And sometimes after I finish walking, I get Tessa and we "dance" in the aisles. She heels to the music and does twirls and leg weaves. It is also part of her warm up, of course.


It's especially fun when they are playing a song we particularly like.

People just ignore us, and that suits me fine!! (We are not being obnoxious in doing this, and I take care not to disturb dogs in crates around the area.)

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I need to start course walking with an MP3 player or something. Music would help my brain about 98%, but that's neither here nor there.

Well, sort of. Mostly, I just really, really like music. It's good for me and my mood/attitude in almost every case out there.

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It works best for me to keep pressure off of my dog by always remembering that he or she won't be with me forever, that every time we walk into the ring is a privilege no matter what happens, and that I accept my dog 100% no matter what.


Exactly. I couldn't agree more.


And although I haven't made it through the entire discussion, Kristine, I share your feelings on the "it's always the handler/never the dog" issue. Dogs aren't robots. We're working with another living, thinking creature, and "off days" and mistakes are going to happen on both parts. That's life. :D

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  • 2 weeks later...

I had a private agility lesson tonight that was really great.

My dog? Is amazing and, to quote the instructor, a really, really good and incredibly honest dog. She saved my butt once in particular when I was super late with a cue and pulled a crazy move to still get the obstacle for me, even when pointed at her favorite obstacle in the world. She was also hitting 180 degree weave entries last night at practice. She just tries really hard to do what I ask.


She also pulled off mixed contacts (ie: running or stopped, depending on what I asked), which I'm super thrilled with.


*I* even got complimented, and told I was getting a lot better at thinking on my feet, and I'm really proud of that because it's been one of my biggest hurdles. If something goes wrong or not exactly according to plan I have historically been completely unable to recover or improvise on course. That I can now pull it out of the fire sometimes is huge.


In less positive news? Blind crosses are a thing I really need to learn to do somewhere besides at a tunnel. I have some strange handling/training holes. In theory blinds should be easy, but apparently it's something I'm going to have to invest some time in figuring out - and it's not the dog not being able to read them, it's me figuring out where the dog is going to be, and where *I* need to be.


Basically, I'm happy with stuff right now.

Trial next weekend. It's a games trial, we're in new levels, and it's indoors so I don't expect much but I also don't really care. It's going to be a good time!

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Today was kind of weird. She did some really impressive stuff - including being the only Open dog to Q on a particular tunneler's course, and having the fastest time even at her size (by a lot)- but honestly?


My favorite moment was this:



Which is just pure disaster and pure Kylie. I've never seen her go around a WHOLE obstacle like that before, much less two, but yelling at me for doing it wrong and resetting herself for take two? YEP.

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I think that your dog did not see the entrance to the tunnel because she had turned into very bright light. She was moving towards the light streaming thru the doorway, rather than the dark tunnel entrance. Perhaps compounded by her pupils constricting from the bright light.


This is a good example of how the environment can affect the dog's path and adjustments that handlers have to make due to the environment. (You peeled away a bit early, but if it wasn't for the light, things may have been OK).


Which is another reason why my instructor tells us over and over again to always walk the dog's path.


Of course if the class is long, the light patterns during the walk thru may be very different than the reality during one's run.


Susan Garret recently posted a very interesting example of an off course--the judge was in the wrong place at the wrong time and the dog read the judge's motion, not Susan's.

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You're right and it's something I didn't account for at all or even think about until I came back to look at the video when you replied.


In fact, looking back over the video every 'weird' mistake we had this weekend (shooting past an obstacle to take one past it, refusing/missing another tunnel entry, missing a hoop), every single time they're in bright as blazes sunshine after coming out of shadow. Not that we didn't have some just plain mistakes, too, but mostly - Yeah, that answers a lot of 'what is going on with my dog?'. Something I'll have to learn to account for when we're anywhere indoors.

Thank you!

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I had a private lesson today where there were weaves early in a sequence (the focus was a tough tunnel/tunnel discrimination that we got) and on take two with taking the other tunnel the instructor suggested trying a little lateral distance from the weaves. We did it and got it and the instructor was just like "...So you're babysitting her in the weaves for no reason?" "...Basically?" "Yeah, no." I have no idea why this cracked me up, but it really did.

Not that she's wrong, but my dog doesn't need me there at all and it just sums up so much of both why agility is such a rush and thrill for me and why I struggle with so much of what I struggle with. I'm a terrible micromanager. So, that's going to be a lot of what *I* work on this summer (the dog has her own stuff).

Maybe I'll start listening to 'Let it go" before every lesson/practice/trial/whatever.

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